One of the tried and true tactics of creationists of all stripes has long been to equate evolution with atheism, and thus those who accept evolution become atheists. In a society where surveys show that atheists are, for some bizarre reason, among the most distrusted people, this is good political strategy; it's also false. It is simply a scare tactic, designed (intelligently, perhaps, but also unethically) to exploit the public's fear and distrust of atheists. Such fears are utterly irrational, of course, but that is precisely why they can be exploited so effectively by demagogues. Those people exploit the fact that the vast majority of people who deny evolution do so not because of the science (which they are almost uniformly ignorant of) but because they have a perception that evolution leads to atheism which, of course, leads to mass chaos and rampant immorality.
Jack Krebs decided to stand up to this demonization at a meeting of the Kansas State Board of Education on Tuesday. Pat Hayes writes about it at Red State Rabble and includes the text of Krebs' speech, which I will reprint here below the fold. The local paper also had a brief report about it as well. Here is the full text of Jack's remarks:
Last month, the day after I spoke here, I was told that Kathy Martin handed out an article entitled "The Truth of Science and of Revelation" from the Catholic magazine "Columbia."
I would like to thank Mrs. Martin for distributing this article, because it supports a major point that we at Kansas Citizens for Science believe: that there is not a conflict between accepting the theory of evolution and believing in God.
Here is what the article says about Catholic doctrine:
"Believing that God designed the world doesn't mean you have to reject Darwinism or any other scientific explanation... The Church has always taught that natural processes and the laws that govern them are themselves part of God's design. ... It is quite acceptable to say that evolution by natural selection is the way God did it."
However, the Intelligent Design advocates claim that one cannot accept both evolution and God. Currently, John Calvert is distributing a pamphlet entitled "Character Assassination and Denigration of Theism." In it, he says that Kansas Citizens for Science has been a "tool" used to "promote a materialist world view that seeks to demean the idea of creation, ... effectively promoting non-theistic religions and world views over traditional theistic views."
This is categorically false. Kansas Citizens for Science does not promote any particular religious view. We do not promote materialism, nor do we promote non-theistic over theistic religions.
Board members of KCFS include an evangelical Christian, a Presbyterian minister, mainstream Protestants and Catholics, Unitarians, agnostics and atheists. Science can and does accommodate all those religious beliefs, and more. We believe that science is a limited form of knowledge, and that many essential matters of morals, values and spiritual belief fall outside the realm of science.
Calling us materialists and atheists just because we support mainstream evolutionary theory is a blatant falsehood, and we object to being characterized as such.
John Calvert has been instrumental in developing and promoting your science standards. Therefore, I want to go on public record here, in front of you, in asking that Calvert quit making these false accusations that those of us who accept modern science and evolutionary theory can't also accept God. Many tens of thousands of religious Kansans are being painted as "tools of atheism" by these accusations, and they have a right to be insulted.
Kansas Citizens for Science firmly believes that science, as the "activity of seeking natural explanations about what we observe in the world around us," is both the best way of learning about the physical world and is fully compatible with a wide diversity of religious beliefs, including traditional Christian beliefs about God.
A note to my readers: please do not get sidetracked from the issue here and start commenting on whether evolution really is or isn't compatible with religious belief in general or any particular religious belief. I'm frankly tired of that argument and it only distracts from the real issue here. One can certainly argue over the question of whether they truly are compatible, but that doesn't change the truth of what is going on here. Even if you believe that religious people hold dissonant beliefs in accepting both evolution and their religious views (I, of course, do not believe that), that does not transform them into atheists or materialists or whatever other scare term the other side wants to use. It is absurd enough that we have this irrational fear of atheism so common in this culture; it is doubly absurd to smear people who aren't atheists with that term, whether you think they should be atheists or not.
- Log in to post comments
Pats website, Red State Rabble is an excellent read ans its one of the five I visit daily.
Not to get all PZ on you, but aren't these sorts of comments a subtle form of anti-atheist bigotry? Since atheists are not by and large immoral evil people who eat babies why is it an insult or a smear to be called one? If I said you were Jewish would you be insulted and feel smeared, or simply inform me that I was wrong?
How would it sound if we replaced atheism with Christianity or any other religion in these comments?
Krebs is basically right, and I agree that it needs to be emphasized that no science theory, including evolution, is inherently atheistic. Religion can always accomodate itself to the natural world through metaphor, mysticism, compartmentalization, reinterpretation, jumping God back to the next area of ignorance, invoking faith, or any of a myriad of tried and true apologetics techniques. I find it interesting that Creationists apparently want to fight against Naturalism using a method like science where one can actually lose. They're just shooting themselves in the foot.
The tricky part for those who fight creationism is to make sure that when they deny that evolution is an atheistic viewpoint that they don't subtly (or overtly) seem to buy into the other side's implication that being called an atheist is a "smear tactic" in the strong sense. The same problem would come up if one side of a debate tried to discredit the other side by "accusing" them of being a pack of gays, or Jews, or people of mixed race. While there would be nothing wrong with pointing out that no, there are all kinds of people who are in favor of an issue and the matter extends beyond a partisan ideological agenda, a denial which sounds too "heated" or horrified would only end up trading credibility for bigotry.
Well, Troy, I think you're too focussed on the atheist part and less focussed on the Christian part. It IS insulting to be called atheist and anti-Christian when you ARE a Christian.
I swear on a stack of, huh..., I affirm that I did not see this until after I posted my comment.
So being an atheist is synonymous with being "anti-Christian" as well? Are Jews anti-Christian? How about Hindus?
Obviously many of those who are not Christians are not so because they disagree or do not believe in something that Christianity teaches, but there is a stronger connotation to being labeled "anti" something than mere disagreement or disbelief. Being labeled anti implies a particular animus towards whatever the term is attached to. Do you think that atheists are any more "anti-Christian" than they are anti-Hindu?
I think we should object on both parts, and there's no reason why we can't. The objection is on different grounds. They righly object to being called atheists because they're not atheists, but they also object because the purpose of the misidentification is to demonize their opponents. There's no reason why we cannot object to both the demonization of atheists and the deliberate lies about the positions of people who are not atheists. I'm with PZ that this notion that atheists are evil, untrustworthy people is patently absurd and should be fought tooth and nail.
What a statement this is. I don't think either of the first two are necessarily outside scietific understanding and the third is so general a term it can mean anything.
To me this is always abit of a dicotomy, If something is outside the realm of science then why on Earth does anyone think the realm of religion has any possible way to solve it with it's superstitions?
How can they not? If one understands evolution as a continuum it really does cause problems. Particually as we understand more and more of it. But this is a digression.
This is an extremely important point. Here in Ohio, I see the typical churchgoer being very susceptible to the noisy and repetitive message from the right that you have to choose God or Evolution. The susceptibility comes from the fact that most churchgoers know as much about their denomination's theology as they do about science. They just want to be decent "God-fearing" folk. This places them in the gravitational pull of the Right on this issue and in others.
These people are not adamant creationists or adamant about anything. So we don't need the kind of highly philosophical and analytical argument that you would need with a creationist. All you have to do is relieve their unneccesary tension regarding what they perceive as science/religion incompatibility.
For the mainstream denominations, its as easy as showing the person the science/religion position statement of their own denomination, or the copious writings that highly placed clerics in their denominations have written on the subject.
The fact is that 80% of the world's population of Christians belong to denominations that find no conflict between science and religion, whether those Christians know it or not.
Finally, the real reason why this is important is because this is your electorate. This is the great bulk of swing voters who are on their way to the polls to vote one way or the other on these wedge issues.
If people are interested, I can post a number of links to the official positions of many of the mainstream denominations as well as excellent writings from their prominent theologians (in some cases they are also Phd Physicists).
I would encourage all the Atheists who are offended by this whole topic, that one important goal is to neutralize the gravitational pull of the right on people who are naive and easily influenced. This is not a criticism of Athiesm. This is more like a suggestion on how to counteract the dishonest use of the threat of Atheism by the right wing "wedgies". The point is to tell naive mainstream Christian voters that the message of God vs Science is a non-issue for them if they are not raving fundamentalists. They can vote with a clear conscience for science curricula that is free from political and religious interference and not be selling out Jesus.
By the way, I am speaking from firsthand experience in doing this myself. I live at a "ground-zero" in a part of Ohio that is represented by a State Board of Education person who just advocated putting "Critical Analysis" language back into the standards in a meeting just a few nights ago. They removed it last February to avoid the Dover Trap, but they have regrouped and they are at it again.
Thanks, Ed, for starting this extremely valuable discussion.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. Would people like more of these links?
Link to Anglican/Episcopalian offical position on Science and Religion.
I've got it. How about if, every time someone fighting Creationism says "I am not an atheist" they follow it up parenthetically with "Not that there's anything wrong with that."
Thus: "Calling us materialists and atheists just because we support mainstream evolutionary theory is a blatant falsehood, and we object to being characterized as such (not that there is anything wrong with that.)"
"Calling us materialists and atheists just because we support mainstream evolutionary theory is a blatant falsehood, and we object to being characterized as such (not that there is anything wrong with that, praise be his name.)"
Here are more of those links showing the official positions of mainstream Christian denominations in regard to science, religion, and particularly evolution.
Show them things like this.
This one can get dense, so if you want, just read the last two paragraphs.
If someone thinks this is something new and goes against church tradition,this from 400 AD
St. Augustine is one of the most influential early writers of Catholic Theology. He is considerd a Doctor of The Church of which there are only 100 so honored throughout history. (Summary for those who don't want to read it: "You are an idiot if you use the Bible as your reference for natural phenomenon. And you are especially idiotic if you use Genesis.")
or your Protestant voters:
Show them this from the Aglican/Episcopaleans.
From the Presbyterians.
Or this article by the ELCA's (Lutheran) Martin Marty, one of their most prominent theologans.
I love the bit about teaching the Navajo Creation story.
He writes books like this
You gotta ask yourself if you really want to write off this kind of guy as an ally.
Or Lutheran's Ted Peters, on why ID and all forms of creationism are really bad theology.
This guy has written a number of books on this subject, some coauthored with phycisists. Creationism and ID are completely skewered in some of these books from a theological point of view.
Or Lutheran's Dr. George Murphy, who is a theologan and phycisist. He did his Doctorate work on the physics of the first few milliseconds after the Big Bang (of course).
This guy is a prolific writer of articles and has published a few books on the topic of science and religion, once again finding more than compatibility, but mutual justification for both. In fact, this guy is available for lectures to church groups and does it eagerly and willingly.
Please use this info wherever you can to influence people who will be voting for legislators and school boards members. I would be very glad to discuss strategies in this area.
Sorry, better link technology.
Show them this from the Anglican/Episcopaleans.
From the Presbyterians.
It gets old being painted with this brush by the fundamentalists and they are not going to stop, laugh or go insane. With that in mind, we are pleased to announce our new organization DOGMA,
Darwinians overthrowing the Godly making AtheistsTM .
I went and read some of the links Chiefly posted, some are interesting reads and I agree they are all allies of good science and should be seen as so but some of their 'thinking' is rather odd.
It's that last line that is stumping. If rational laws exist in the world then it renders the vast majority of religious claims moot as they go in exactly the opposite direction.
This seems to me a fallacy.
All this does is make any and all searches for the truth utterly pointless. You'll get no sign because the information is all around you. I think this is wishful thinking and a dicotomy at the same time. It forms a loop minus any evidence but also where any thing you think is evidence will do.
hey whatever he likes evolution.:-)
Yes, thats the spirit. I am not asking you to take the cure or anything. Its just that lots of ID/Creationists comb the scientific literature itself like amateur detectives familiarizing themselves with some of it to use as arguing points. They use it dishonestly, for sure.
Those of us who are defending science be we religious or not, can familiarize ourselves with some of the important aspects of mainstream Christian theology and do the same thing.
But we have a big advantage in this regard. First of all, we don't have to be dishonest. All we have to do is lead a religious person to the proper information from their own denomination or show them the widespread positions of so many mainstream denominations.
Second, is that we are not talking about trying to out-argue highly skilled and slippery debators with an agenda. We are just talking about conversations with neighbors and others who don't often think of this stuff at all until election time comes around, who just want to live their lives and not feel like they are unfaithful. These people are in the mainstream denominations, but are voting "fundamental" on wedge issues out of naivete because they are falling prey to the "if you hear something enough times it must be true" school of study. And what they are hearing during the week from friends and the media is not from their own denomination.
I know this might be boring or downright distasteful to some, but this is a difficult cultural war going on here. We need to do what we can. Its nowhere near as fun as debating the fine points of one's epistemology, but sometimes we have to do what we have to do to get the job done. Thanks for looking it over.
By the way, that first thing you quoted is very useful to this cause. It's called the Doctrine of Kenosis. It's a bit esoteric for the average churchgoer, and I dont want to use bandwidth on it here. Do some Googling on it and you will see how it pertains.
I am trying to figure out a good forum for working on this stuff and making it available in easy to use form such that freedom fighters might be better equipped in this area. I am interested in any suggestions.
I had this very line running through my head earlier today while thinking about this subject. That and the old line about how "some of my best friends are...[fill in the blank]".
I'm familiar with it. I agree it's useful to the cause of science but not so useful anywhere else. But I agree with much of what you said. Excellent information Chiefly.
Perhaps you should pass it on to PZ Myers whose site gets enormous flow and see what he would do with it.
Actually, I did post these links in the comments section in a thread called The Larger Issue of Bad Religion. It was a very long thread, so its pretty much buried under lots of other conversations.
Are you suggesting I submit it to PZ Myers as an article, or just send the info? I have never done this before, so I am unfamiliar with the process.
By the way, I just now found this outstanding set of essays on the topic.
it may be true that all evolutionists aren't atheists, but evolutionists sure go out of their way to attack christianity.....not other religions, just christianity, why is that?
Here's Dawkins, the foremost promoter of evolution:
In "The God Delusion," the first film in the series, Dawkins targets Catholicism at the pilgrimage site in Lourdes. "If you want to experience the medieval rituals of faith, the candle light, the incense, music, important-sounding dead languages, nobody does it better than the Catholics," he says.
Dawkins, using his visit to Colorado Springs' New Life Church, criticizes conservative U.S. evangelicals and warns his audience of the influence of "Christian fascism" and "an American Taliban." Dawkins, who makes no effort to disguise his atheism and contempt for religion, focuses on the Bible, too.
"The God of the Old Testament has got to be the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous, and proud of it, petty, vindictive, unjust, unforgiving, racist," he says. Dawkins then criticizes Abraham, compares Moses to Hitler and Saddam Hussein, and calls the New Testament "St Paul's nasty, sado-masochistic doctrine of atonement for original sin."
If evolution is so secure, then why all the attacks on christianity by evolutionists? Why the ruling of God from a 'science'??
Evolutionists? You only name one. Maybe one could offer another name or two of those atheists actively hostile to religion. Daniel Dennett comes to mind. PZ Myers. But of course they don't hold any religion in higher esteem than Christianity. They are all equally bad. Christianity is the most common in the west, and those active anti-evolutionists are by and large from the Protestant Christian clans, so the most obvious target. But these guys certainly don't speak for all "evolutionists", and they don't even speak for all atheist evolutionists.
And yet you only cite one person. Yes, Richard Dawkins certainly does attack Christianity. But his opinions about Christianity are not a part of evolutionary theory, they are simply his beliefs. One could easily turn this around: why does opposition to evolution come almost exclusively from Christians, and Christians of a particular theological view at that? They fervently deny that their views have anything to do with religion, but we all know that's nonsense; they have everything to do with religion. There is far more diversity on the pro-evolution side than the anti-evolution side when it comes to religion.
t- you need to go back and watch the video again. He also talks to muslims.
I think you misunderstand Dawkins. Yes he is an evolutionary biologist by profession and as such has had to deal with the hordes of ignoramuses that attempt to subvert science. He has identified the problem, irrational faith and as such speaks his mind.
It has nothing to do with evolution per se.
And t just because you don't like what he says doesn't make him wrong.
It may be acceptable to the church but it's not acceptable to science. One of the requirements of good science is methodological naturalism. What this means is that you can't fall back on supernatural explanations in order to explain the natural world.
If you claim that evolution and natural selection are part of God's design then you are advocating intelligent design and intelligent design is not science. It may or may not be true, but it ain't science.
Many people believe that science and religion are compatible. I'm not one of them, but let's set aside that meta-discussion and look at a specific example.
Is Theistic Evolution an example of compatibility? No it isn't. It's an oxymoran that's no better than "Scientific Creationism."
Theistic Evolution: The Fallacy of the Middle Ground
I'm sorry is this offends some people but the Emperor has no clothes. Theistic Evolution is just Intelligent Design Creationism masquerading as science.
What you say may or may not be perfectly true, but you have completely missed my point and the point of the article that started this thread.
I am not trying to convince you that the mainstream denominations have this completely right. What is important is what is on the mind of the average voter as he votes on these wedge issues. My message is that articulate and informed people like you could use your considerable intelligence and persuasive skills to help with influencing those voters. But you won't do it by parsing for them the subtle nuances of theistic evolution.
But while you are debating the fine points with us, those that are waging a culture war on science are simply pasting "God or Darwin" stickers on the back of their SUVs, visiting school boards and legislators, and feeding Ann Coulter their Disneyland version of science. You might take a look around for a moment and recognize that bumper stickers, constant repetition and constant hammering by lobbyist groups like the Discovery Institute actually work.
So all I am asking you to do, whenever the occasion presents itself, is to help spread the simple fact to the very large block of theologically naive mainstream Christians, that their own denominations do not see a conflict between science and religion.
Personal networking, letters to the editor, letters to representatives, etc., are ways of accomplishing this. You might even mention it to your local high school biology teacher who is in all liklihood looking like a deer caught in the headlights at this moment (especially if they live in a medieval state like mine (Ohio).
So in summary, its not important (for purposes of influencing voters) whether *YOU* think these denominations are science compatible or not, what is important is that the denominations think so and their constituents need to know that when they are in the voting booth.
Sorry if I sound a bit cranky. I live in Ohio, you see. And just this week, the State Board of Ed was meeting on amending the science standards to once again introduce "Critical Analysis" language about evolution, global warming, and stem cell research into the science curriculum. Since I am pretty sure how you will vote on scientic wedge issues, I am not very sensitive about your philosophical stance.
But Larry, I do see your point. And if it helps you be a better advocate for the "no conflict" message, I should respond to your point. I think the term "compatability" might be the wrong one for this. Discussing the compatibility between religion and science is a category error. This is not my opinion. I am maintaining that this is what the mainstream denominations are saying.
Its more accurate to say that the mainstream denominations find no conflict and expect no conflict to arise between the findings of the study of the universe through methodological naturalism and theology. So their position is that a Jesuit biologist and an Atheist biologist will see the same thing through the microscope and if they go on for centuries refining their observations and theories about the natural world, they will be more and more successful in their pursuit and they will never see any sign of God. In fact, it would be counter to mainstream Christian theology to suggest that any sign of God would be found while studying the universe scientifically.
How they maintain this and not just become all Deists is very important but not really germain to my original point, which is that it needs to be communicated that there is no conflict. Thats all. Most people don't get beyond the sigh of relief when they see that. You, as a freedom fighter for science don't have to have the complete apologetics to influence a huge chunk of voters. All you have to do is relieve their stress.
How they reconcile that with God's continual
My local high school teachers here in Toronto are doing a wonderful job. They've been teaching evolution for years. They even sponsor student debates on the Creation/Evolution controversy.My children took part in those debates. As a matter of fact, my daughter took the Creationist side in her school debate because they couldn't find any Creationists. She loved it because she's a bit contrary. (I don't know where she gets it from.)The publicly funded Roman Catholic schools also do an excellent job of teaching science and exposing Creationism. I've been invited to speak at those school on several occasions.
You have my sympathy. Ontario is only a few miles away but in terms of religion we might as well be on another planet. I live in an increasingly secular society - it's almost as free of religion as the Western European countries. I live in the suburbs and, believe it or not, most of my neighbors are non-believers. Here, it's the strange religious fundamantalists who stick out like a sore thumb.My objectives aren't the same as yours.
Correction: I meant to say "That is not only my opinion.", instead of "That is not my opinion." And ignore the spurious last line.
"My objectives are not the same as yours."
Now that you explain your environment, I can understand why.
I would love it if you could see your way clear to annex Ohio to Ontario. But you are probably building a border wall to keep out undocumented fundamentalists.
Imagine that! All the mainstream religions say that their beliefs are compatible with science. Go figure!Miracles are not compatible with science. Any God who meddles with the natural world is not compatible with science. The answering of prayers is not compatible with science. Transubstantiation is not compatible with science. Life after death is not compatible with science (and neither are souls). This is only a sample. There are dozens of other claims that are not compatible with science. As a matter of fact, nobody has come up with a significant religious tenet that is compatible with science.Any religion that's willing to give up all of this is OK in my books. Unfortunately, there's nobody who believes in such a "religion."
But there is a conflict. You make the avoidance of Deism sound like a minor, trivial problem. It's not. It's the whole ball game.
"You make the avoidance of Deism sound like a minor, trivial problem. It's not. It's the whole ball game."
You are completely right about this being the whole ballgame. It takes a lot of thinking about this to get here, and it looks like you have done a lot of that. In fact, this area has occupied my late night contemplation for years from the point of view of reconciling misery and suffering in the world with theodicy. I think you and I would have great conversations over many pints of ale.
But what I am saying is that they think they have this figured out and what they think is nothing new to them. And from that they think there is no conflict.
And the only reason I am here talking about it is that this information is valuable to the cause.
The Christian geocentrists of 350 years ago also used the "heliocentrism is atheism" or "natural philosophy [science] is atheism" argument. How many Christians take geocentrism seriously today?
More than you would probably expect. In fact, geocentrism has been growing over the last couple decades, largely because of Gerardus Buow. Go to www.fixedearth.com and you'll see that some are still making that argument.
Indeed, and I've seen it with my own two eyes that geocentrism is far from dead. At first you can't believe you're seeing them, but there they are, and quite serious.